Linguistics Colloquium: Charles Yang​ ​(UPenn)

FEB 07, 2019 | 4:15 PM TO 6:00 PM



The Graduate Center
365 Fifth Avenue




February 07, 2019: 4:15 PM-6:00 PM




Charles Yang​ ​(UPenn) presents:

The Linguistic Basis of Natural Number

Only humans learn language and only humans develop the concept of natural number: How are these two abilities related? I propose that the Successor Function, which provides the infinity of natural numbers, becomes available to children through learning the productive rules of numeral formation in their native language. We tested the development of counting and the knowledge of the Successor Function by Cantonese-learning children. The simplicity of the Cantonese numeral system provides a full year of developmental advantage over English-learning children, which can be precisely characterized by a well-established principle of language learning and generalization. I will also address the inevitable Whorpfian implications of our results on the relationship between language and thought.

[This talk reports joint work with Margaret Lei and Thomas Lee at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.]